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29 May 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Pexels
Prof Melanie Walker
Fostering human capabilities in universities may potentially transform education, says Prof Melanie Walker.

Education is at the centre of human life, and has the potential to be a crucial support for democratic life. Prof Melanie Walker’s recent research paper strikes a balance in dealing with people, education and the implications for democracy through the lens of human capabilities theory and practice and her own research.

People and papers

In her capacity as the SARChI Chair in the Higher Education and Human Development Research Programme at the University of the Free State (UFS), Prof Walker recently published a paper titled: Defending the Need for a Foundational Epistemic Capability in Education. It appeared in the special issue of the Journal of Human Development and Capabilities in honour of renowned Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s 85th birthday.

Nurturing epistemic justice

Within the context of existing literature such as that of Sen’s concern with the value of education on the one hand, and public reasoning on the other, Prof Walker argues for a foundational epistemic capability to shape the formal education landscape – as well as quality in education – by fostering inclusive public reasoning (including critical thinking) in all students. It would contribute to what Sen calls the ‘protective power of democracy’ and shared democratic rights, which, he argues, are strongly missed when most needed.

“Sen’s approach asks us to build democratic practices in our university and in our society in ways which create capabilities for everyone. If our students learn public reasoning in all sorts of spaces in university, including the pedagogical, they may carry this into and back to society,” she said.

Educating for equality

Empowering society and fighting for justice are some of the crucial contributions made possible through fostering the epistemic capability of all students. “The capability requires that each student is recognised as both a knower and teller, a receiver and a contributor in critical meaning and knowledge, and an epistemic agent in processes of learning and critical thinking,” states Prof Walker.

In a young democracy like South Africa’s, inclusive public reasoning becomes all the more essential in order to achieve equality, uphold rights and sustain democracy as enshrined in the constitution, thereby improving people’s lives. 

News Archive

UFS launches history book
2007-02-02

 

Attending the launch of the UFS history book were, from the left: Prof Stef Coetzee, Prof Francois Retief, Prof Wynand Mouton, Mr Pieter Cox (Chairperson on Sasol) and Prof Frederick Fourie (Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS). Profs Coetzee, Retief and Mouton are former rectors of the UFS.
UFS launches history book
 
The University of the Free State (UFS) today launched its history book titled, From Grey to Gold, on the Main Campus in Bloemfontein.
 
“The history of the UFS is one of faith, hope, struggle and determination. The book tells a fascinating story that stretches over a 100 years. It is divided into five main phases, which tells about the growth of the UFS from a poor Free State community to a mature university. Interesting stories about student days, sport, rag and hostel activities are included in each phase,” Prof Frederick Fourie, Rector and Vice-Chancellor said during the launch of the book.
 
“One cannot know where you are going if you don’t know where you are coming from. You have a clearer idea of the issues facing an institution if you know the history. A book like this one is also an important source of reference for staff on the campus,” said Prof Fourie.
 
The first research for the book was done from 1999-2003 by Prof Leo Barnard from the Department of History and a team of researchers. They also compiled the first manuscript. 
 
During the last three years, Prof Fourie was closely involved with the writing of the final phase and finishing off the history book project. “It was an honour to be so closely involved with the story of the UFS because now I have a better understanding of the institution, its people, its culture and its way of thinking. For any rector of a university, such an understanding of its institution is a requirement,” Prof Fourie said.
 
The book is partly sponsored by Sasol. During the launch of the book, Mr Pieter Cox, Chairperson of Sasol said the company and the UFS have been partners for 57 years. “Both Sasol and the UFS are striving for excellence – Sasol for excellence in technology and the UFS for excellence in education,” said Mr Cox. 
 
“It was an easy decision when the UFS approached Sasol for financial support of the history book. Its a formidable piece of work, something Prof Fourie and the UFS can be proud of,” said Mr Cox.
 
The book consists of more than 500 pages with hundreds of photos and a wide range of supplements of office-bearers, awards and achievements (including national and sporting colours). A timeline framework, putting the history of the UFS in context with the history of the Free State, South Africa and of the world, is also included.
 
Besides the supplements, the history book also tells the story of amongst others the establishment of the UFS; the role of its founding fathers; black pioneers of transformation; the establishment and development of academic departments and faculties; student numbers; pioneers and trends in research; academic entrepreneurs; campus issues and campus politics; interesting facts and stories about student life (rag, intervarsity and cheerleaders, sport and the Springboks, hostel traditions); the admission of black students and anguish about race; language and culture; the development of the Main Campus; the Tickey and the Banana and much more.
 
Emphasis is placed on a very high level of quality. “It is not every day that the university becomes hundred years old and the institution will be measured by the quality of the book. We cannot say the UFS is a university of excellence if the book does not reflect that,” Ms Edma Pelzer, Director: Physical Resources and Special Projects said. Ms Pelzer managed the project as part of the last mentioned part of her portfolio.
 
The search for photographs was an important aspect of the book and it was a big task to find photographs and write captions. It took almost a year to translate and prepare the English edition and almost ten months to ensure the accuracy thereof, especially to correctly translate the typical Free State and UFS terminology and naturally to complete the English manuscript’s layout and proofreading. In the mean time the cover pages were designed and in September 2006 the manuscript went into the final print process. The Afrikaans title is: Van Sink tot Sandsteen tot Graniet.  
 
The cost of the book is R380 per copy. Those who already ordered the book will soon receive their copy. Orders can be placed by contacting Mr Dawid Kriel at UFS Marketing on 051 401 3409 or on the UFS web site at www.ufs.ac.za. The book is also available at Van Schaik Book Store on the Thakaneng Bridge, UFS Main Campus and at Fascination Books in Mimosa Mall, Bloemfontein.
 
Media release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Media Representative
Tel: (051) 401-2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
2 February 2007

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